Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week I wrote about the Supreme Court’s ongoing destruction of campaign finance laws. This week’s most striking story concerned why such laws are necessary and should be expanded rather than struck down: A research paper by two political scientists examined 1,779 separate political disputes between 1981 and 2002 (before John Roberts began his defense of rich people’s right to buy influence), compared them to measures of public opinion broken down by income, and concluded that ordinary voters get their way only when they happen to agree with either the rich or with organized interest groups (especially business interest groups). “Clearly, when one holds constant net interest group alignments and the preferences of affluent Americans, it makes very little difference what the general public thinks.” The paper described the American political system with a particularly telling phrase that gives this week’s first featured article its title: “Democracy by Coincidence”.

The other story that struck me this week was the armed mob that successfully defended the cattle of freeloader and public-land-abuser Cliven Bundy from government seizure. Bundy and his defenders put forward many ideas that sound like high-minded principles, but it is hard to imagine a situation where those principles would apply to anyone other than People Like Us. (Didn’t Occupy Wall Street claim a right to use public land? Did the militia movement rush to their defense?) And mainstream conservative pundits are somehow unable to separate themselves from this radical, violent fringe of the conservative movement. I’ll have a second featured article about that, but I haven’t titled it yet.

The weekly summary will discuss the marathon-bombing anniversary, developments in Ukraine, Kansas parents trying to stop the First Lady from speaking at their kids’ graduation, and a few other short notes, before closing with video of two amazing new vehicles that don’t need a lot of fossil fuel.

As a wild guess, expect “Democracy By Coincidence” between 9 and 10 (Eastern), and the Bundy article before noon, with the weekly summary coming a little bit later.


The Monday Morning Teaser

The Sift is back. During the last two weeks I kept running into people depressed by the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, which blew up another chunk of the campaign finance laws. When I read the decision, and pieces of the Buckley decision from 1976 that it is supposedly based on (but actually reverses), what struck me is that this is exactly what conservatives had always (unfairly, I believe) accused liberal justices of doing: judicial activism, ruling the way you want regardless of the law and the history of its interpretation. So one of this week’s featured articles is “This Is What Judicial Activism Looks Like”.

The other featured article looks at Brendan Eich’s resignation-under-fire from Mozilla, and the media criticism of the “liberal fascists” or “gay mafia” who drove him out. I find this kind of talk overblown, but it does raise the question: when should we refuse to deal with someone because of his political views? I’ll talk about that in “Who Is Beyond the Pale?”

A lot of stuff has been happening these last two weeks, which I’ll link to in the weekly summary: ObamaCare exceeded its sign-up projections, allowing Kathleen Sebelius to ride into the sunset. The Ukraine and Russia keep doing a war dance. Equal Pay Day drew attention to the continuing gap between male and female earnings. The House passed yet another version of the Ryan budget, cutting programs for the poor in order to give tax cuts to rich people. The Heartbleed bug was revealed. And CBS announced that Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman when Letterman retires.

I’m battling a cold today, so it’s not clear how many breaks I’ll have to take. The Eich article is more-or-less done and should appear shortly. No predictions about the Supreme Court article or the weekly summary.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s main article will be a review of Douglas Blackmon’s book Slavery By Another Name, which tells the story of how involuntary servitude was re-established in the South after Reconstruction and lasted until World War II.

I’m kind of amazed that I didn’t hear about this book when it came out in 2008, or when it won the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction in 2009, or even when PBS made a documentary from it in 2012. (As I tell my friends about it, I’ve been waiting for somebody to say, “Where have you been? Everybody knows about that.” So far nobody has.) I think it’s an important piece of American history to understand, and it throws a whole new light on the story of race in America. We’re used to thinking about the blacks who marched with Martin Luther King as the grandchildren of slaves. But probably some of them had been slaves themselves, except that it wasn’t called “slavery” by then.

Another article will talk about recent labor developments in sports, especially the surprising ruling that Northwestern’s football players are employees who have the right to form a union. Also worth knowing about: the lawsuit the Raiderette cheerleaders have filed against the Oakland Raiders, and why there’s likely to be another baseball strike in 2016. (Due to a screw-up on my part — I thought I posted the teaser hours ago — this is already up.)

In the weekly summary, today is the ObamaCare deadline (sort of), which has inspired a variety of how-is-it-working stories. The Supreme Court heard arguments about ObamaCare’s contraception mandate and how it conflicts with corporations’ freedom of religion. The Christie administration’s Bridgegate investigation concluded that Gov. Christie has done nothing wrong. An appeals court found Texas’ new abortion restrictions constitutional, contradicting another appeals court and setting up a Supreme Court case. The Religious Right has decided Disney’s Frozen is gay propaganda. And a bunch of other stuff.

The sports-labor article will be first, within the hour. The book review still needs some work, so I’m not putting a time on that. And then the weekly summary.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I couldn’t stay away from Ken Langone’s ridiculous comparison between liberal rhetoric about the 1% and “what Hitler was saying” in 1933, though “with different words”. I mean, he’s right: If you change all the words, the two are exactly the same. How can you argue with something like that?

Since that part is logically unassailable, I decided to focus on the part of Langone’s statement that has content: “You don’t survive as a society if you encourage or thrive on envy or jealousy.” I figure that’s the venom that supposed to stay in the public’s system after the Hitler-barb gets pulled out: the Left’s message is all about envy and resentment. (It’s as if he said your moustache resembles Hitler’s, and then you denied it, but forgot to mention that you don’t have a moustache. The public is likely to come out thinking that your moustache is probably more like Stalin’s, or maybe Ming the Merciless.)

So “The Real Politics of Envy” pays attention to whose message is actually raising and capitalizing on resentment: the Right’s. That’s a constant background refrain whenever they campaign against unionized workers, or sexually active young people, or the poor: Somebody’s getting away with something you wish you could have gotten away with, so don’t you want to see them punished? Nothing the Left says about the rich is remotely comparable.

That should be out in about an hour and a half. Later this morning, the weekly summary will snark about the news networks’ 24/7 coverage of the missing airliner, which has exemplified just about everything that’s wrong with contemporary journalism. I’ll also link you to stuff written by people who understand Crimea, Russia, and Ukraine better than I do; point out some of the classy ways people reacted to the death of Fred God-Hates-Fags Phelps; mark ObamaCare’s fourth anniversary; and call your attention to some hilarious examples of the new Internet art form “McConnelling”.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Two things happened this week that involve Paul Ryan: The Republican majority of the House Budget Committee (which he chairs) issued The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later, and possible 2016 presidential candidates auditioned for the Republican base at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Ryan didn’t do well in the CPAC straw poll and the cheers at his speech were tepid, but he did succeed in annoying liberals with a phony story about a poor kid and his government-provided lunch. Congratulations, Paul. Mission accomplished.

The poverty report is fascinating because of what it obscures: the general consensus in America about how the government should help people who need help. I’ll lay out what I think that consensus is and how Ryan’s smokescreen works in “Does Paul Ryan Care About Poverty Now?”

The weekly summary will discuss the Ukraine/Crimea situation and CPAC, and link to various other interesting things I found this week, including Edwin Lyngar’s “I Lost My Dad to Fox News”, before ending with Jimmy Kimmel’s vision of what America’s teachers would really like to say to parents.

Hard to predict when the posts will appear; I still need to look some things up.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The first article to come out today will start with Gov. Brewer’s veto of Arizona’s anti-gay “religious liberty” law, and then pull back to the larger question: What religious liberties are people worried about, and are the more specific principles that protect those liberties in danger?

In the whole country, I could only find four cases in which businesses have faced legal action because they didn’t want to be involved in same-sex wedding celebrations, and I believe one of them hasn’t been decided yet. I read all three decisions, plus a decision concerning a religious venue for a civil-union ceremony. The judges seemed well aware of the principles of religious liberty, and I don’t see any reason to fear that their decisions are steps on a slippery slope.

I’m still working on the title, but the article should be out in an hour or so.

In the weekly summary, the most compelling issue is the way the Ukraine situation has turned into a big-power confrontation. I decided to link to the insightful stuff I’ve read rather than pull together an article of my own. The interesting sidebar on the story is the history of Crimea’s Tatar minority, which came west with Genghis Khan.

Also in the summary: the Army might get smaller, bitcoin, the Republicans (sort of) have a tax plan, and after all those loud claims that the cold winter proved global warming wasn’t happening, this January turns out to have been the fourth warmest January globally since 1880.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s been a busy week on the Sift.

Last Monday’s “What Should ‘Racism’ Mean?” is close to 19,000 page views and is still running. It has moved into 4th place on the Sift’s greatest hits list, passing one of my favorites “One Word Turns the Tea Party Around” at 18K. At this rate it should run past “Why I am Not a Libertarian” at 24K. But “Six True Things Politicians Can’t Say” at 69K and “The Distress of the Privileged” at 316K are still a long way out there. (I wonder if other blogs’ hit distributions look like that, with such extreme outliers. A typical featured post gets a few hundred hits, not counting the people who subscribe.)

Anyway, I’ve spent a bunch of this week responding to comments, which is why the Link of the Day hasn’t been even close to daily.

This week I’m going to take a different angle on the race theme with a review of Daniel Sharfstein’s book The Invisible Line: a secret history of race in America. It’s a generation-by-generation look at three American families who crossed the color line from black to white, eventually forgetting their black ancestors. It is both an amazing perspective on what it has meant to be white or black at various points in American history, and a meditation on just how socially constructed the whole notion of “race” is. (Spoiler: One of the families joins the Confederate aristocracy and includes a senator who played a role in ending Reconstruction.)

I called the article “Are You Sure You’re White?”. I realize that title implicitly leaves out my non-white readers, who I hope will forgive me and read the article anyway. (I think you’ll like it.) I couldn’t think of any more inclusive titles that would be nearly so clickable.

Beyond that, the weekly summary will try to catch up with what’s going on in Ukraine and Venezuela. The 5-year anniversary of the Stimulus brought a lot of retrospective debate. A series of state legislatures are considering bills that would redefine “religious freedom” as “freedom to discriminate against gays”. And I’ll end with NBC’s Brian Williams performing “Rapper’s Delight”.

The Monday Morning Teaser

As I channel-scanned the Sunday talk shows, they all seemed to be discussing Michael Sam and the NFL. But I didn’t scan through anybody having my reaction to the story: Didn’t we just do this? The issues — group morale, taking showers, and so on — are the same ones we just hashed through in ending don’t-ask-don’t-tell in the military. And if you look back far enough, the same arguments showed up when the issue was blacks in the military or in sports.

I think that’s why so many people-you-wouldn’t-have-expected have jumped into this argument with so much force and eloquence: It’s all still fresh in our heads. We’ve seen this movie, we already know the lines, and we know what role we’re going to wish we had played.

So the first article to come out today will be about that. There’s a longer article about the many ways to define racism that I’ve been working on for a while and might get done today. Not sure about that.

The weekly summary continues the football theme by looking at the new report on the Miami Dolphins bullying incident, and it continues the déjà vu theme by looking at the Kentucky and Virginia same-sex marriage cases: The Religious Right keeps making the same arguments, no matter how many times judges knock them down. So all these rulings look the same.

Then we get to the dog that didn’t bark this week: the completely non-dramatic extension of the debt ceiling. That’s one of many signs that the Republican Civil War is getting serious. Other news this week: the Michael Dunn verdict, the UAW’s defeat in Chattanooga, Comcast’s attempt to buy Time Warner Cable, and a bunch of other stuff.

The Michael Sam article should come out soon, and the rest may run late (as I try to figure out whether the racism article is ready).

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I tackle the Common Core standards, which several people have been asking about. I knew I had my work cut out for me last week when I heard Chris Hayes say that he didn’t know what to think about them. When was the last time Chris Hayes didn’t know what to think? I’ve always imagined that if you woke Chris up at 3 a.m. and picked a subject out of the encyclopedia at random, he’d say, “Funny you should ask about that.”

The gist of my conclusion is that the standards are fine, the tests are fine, but what people want to do with the test results is crazy. Along the way I’m going to end up telling you about my own bizarre educational history, my sister’s experiences as a public school teacher, and a bunch of other stuff that makes the article run way too long. (I’m blowing away my usual word limit this week.)

I’m also writing an article about that CBO report that the media mangled into saying that ObamaCare will kill jobs. Other people have covered it, but I think they’ve missed the real story: That’s not even what the report was about. The CBO thought it was explaining why the deficit is falling. The media had to ignore the report’s main subject and several other possible stories before latching onto ObamaCare-kills-jobs, which the report didn’t even say. Then after it became clear that they had misreported the story, some reporters blamed the administration for not having a better explanation ready in case they made a story out of a misrepresentation of Appendix C.

Finally, in the weekly summary: Woody Allen responded, Bill Nye debated at the Creationist Museum (and lived to tell the tale), Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death reminded people that heroin is a problem, the NFL is going to have an openly gay player next season, and Congressman Sarbanes has introduced a practical bill for lessening the influence of big money on our politicians.

The CBO article should be out soon. I can’t estimate how long it will take me to put finishing touches on the Common Core article and then do the weekly summary.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The State of the Union and its many responses dominate the Sift this week, as they dominated the news. I find these speeches valuable even when I don’t take them at face value. They are the culmination of much polling and focus-group testing by politicians across the spectrum. So — independent of whether any of the proposals will ever become law — they tell us a lot about how the parties view the public, what part of the public they’re trying to appeal to, and what part of their own image worries them.

One nugget from the speeches taken as a whole: Everybody was talking about inequality as if it were a serious concern. That’s same-old same-old for liberals, but new for conservatives. Which means it’s showing up in their polling and focus groups, even the focus groups representing their targeted voters. Which means a chunk of the Occupy Wall Street message is becoming the new political common sense, in spite of the conventional view that OWS failed. I cover this in the first featured article, “Occupying the State of the Union”, which should be out sometime in the next hour.

There’s a lot more to observe in the SOTUs, and I’m still undecided whether I’ll break that off into a second SOTU article, or just let it dominate the weekly summary.

Other stuff that happened this week: The Bridgegate scandal keeps advancing. Right-wing media supported Tom Perkins in his claim that the rich are persecuted. The women-can’t-be-trusted dog whistle is being blown on Wendy Davis, just as it was blown on Elizabeth Warren in 2012. Woody Allen’s adopted daughter Dylan Farrow went public with child-molestation charges that blew up the Allen/Farrow marriage. And Pete Seeger’s death opened the floodgates on a stream of appreciation for his long and productive life. I plan to close the weekly summary with a YouTube of a Seeger song that seems like an appropriate good-bye.


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